Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Great Conjunction, Saturn and Jupiter with Visible Moons at 300mm

I didn't have high hopes to get a glimpse of the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter this month. I've gotten my hopes up too many times and gotten burned by Indiana weather in December. Like my husband says, better to be pessimistic and pleasantly surprised if it works out. When I saw the clouds clearing up a bit this evening around sunset, I dusted off my camera and tripod. 

The conjunction wasn't visible at first, so I used a great iPhone app one-two punch to find what I was looking for. First I opened Star Walk and found Saturn, then clicked for more information to get the exact altitude (degrees above the horizon) and azimuth (horizontal degrees clockwise from true north). So this gave me the numbers for where Saturn should appear.

Next, I use one of my absolute favorite apps called Theodolite that uses the camera with on-screen display that shows altitude, azimuth, lets you take screen shots, and a whole bunch of other things. It feels like a professional grade surveyor app. So knowing Saturn should be about 15° above the horizon and 222° SW it was a snap finding where I should be pointing to make sure I had a clear view over the tree line. 

Once the sky got a little darker it was obvious because Jupiter and Saturn are so bright, but I think the planning helped me decide if I should even bother setting up in the backyard or if my view would be completely blocked. 

I was pleased I could get some trees in the foreground rather than just the conjunction against a wash background. Here's what I got...

jupiter and saturn conjunction 300mm december 20
Jupiter and Saturn taken with DSLR on fixed tripod, 300mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, 0.3 sec

december 20 2020 jupiter saturn 300mm photo
Same photo as above with labels added

jupiter saturn conjunction december 20 2020 with moons label

theodolite app screen shot jupiter saturn conjunction
Screen shot of Theodolite app tagging the Alt/Az of the conjunction and timestamp

I learned from the my comet Neowise photo that if I tweet at Sean Ash he'll sometimes feature astronomical photos on the WHTR Indianapolis channel 13 evening news, and sure enough he asked if he could feature the photo that same night. I'm famous! 

Monday, July 13, 2020

c/2020 F3 NEOWISE at 5:01am from Indiana July 13, 2020

Visible to the naked eye this morning. Comet c/2020 F3 NEOWISE at 5:01 a.m. facing NE in Noblesville, Indiana. Shot with DSLR on tripod.

comet neowise in the morning sky july 13 2020
Canon T5i, ISO 3200, 75mm, f/4, 4s

I set an alarm for 4:30 a.m. but I was up at 4:15 because I was too excited. I made some coffee and doused myself in bug spray, ready to head out to a spot I scouted the evening before with Chris. I used an app called Theodolite to scout my location because it accurately measures through my iPhone the direction and elevation of the crosshairs in my camera viewfinder so I can tell if I have a clear view of the NE sky at 10 degrees above the horizon. 

coffee and head lamp

I didn't even have time to drink my coffee. I figured I'd be waiting around for the comet to rise above the building across the street, but I guess I under estimated how high it would be by 5am. When I got to the sidewalk, I quickly got my bearings spotting Venus and Aldebaran in close conjunction and looked to the left. 

tripod on sidewalk at night

Dawn was quickly approaching, and I just used the spray and pray method, using all different combinations of duration and ISO so that I wouldn't come home with a bunch of streaky blurry or extremely noisy shots. I didn't do anything fancy, these are just single exposures and I turned the yellow tint down ever so slightly because I was surrounded by street lights. 

c2020 f3 comet neowise july 13 2020
Canon T5i, ISO 3200, 55mm, f/5.6, 8s

comet neowise at dawn before sunrise
15 minutes later already much lighter

comet neowise from indiana 300mm
Canon T5i, 300mm, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 2.5s